Foreign rights/Liar Sells to Brazil & Turkey

Late breaking news: Liar has sold to Editora Record in Brazil, who are also the home of the Magic or Madness trilogy. And for the first time in my career a book of mine has sold in Turkey! Liar has found a home at Artemis, an imprint of Alfa Yayin Grubu. Yay! Liar will now be published in seven different countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey and the USA. Not bad for a book that isn’t out until October.

A couple of readers have asked me what this means exactly. How do books get sold to other countries? How does it all work?

Basically the world is divided up into various different territories for publishing rights. Those territories (more or less) correspond to different countries. Though notoriously the UK is under the delusion that many other countries are part of its territory. Newsflash to the UK: Your empire crumbled decades ago. Get over it!

When my agent, Jill Grinberg, sells one of my books the first rights she sells are North American (USA + Canada) and ANZ (Australia + New Zealand). Those two rights are sold directly. Thus my agent gets 15% and I get the rest.1

Translation rights to my work are sold by my agent working with different sub-agents around the world. Which means that they split the agents’ commission, with both my agent and the sub-agent taking 10%, and me getting 80%. Some sub-agents handle more than one territory. I know of one who handles Spanish and Portuguese language sales in multiple countries, but most sub-agents work only in one territory, which is usually their home country, and thus they know it really, really well.

The larger commission is no big deal because without agents working on your behalf you would not sell in other countries. The sub-agents are the people who know which publishing houses are after what kind of book, and who has the best translators. They’re the ones who sort out the labyrinthine tax laws and tax arrangements between your home country and the country you’re selling into. Also, I don’t know about you, but I am not fluent in any of the languages spoken in any of the countries I’ve been sold in other than Australia and the US.2

I became very interested in foreign rights after my first visit to the Bologna Book Fair, where I met some of my foreign publishers, and saw the world-wide business of buying and selling rights to kids and teen books up close. I was totally fascinated to learn that the Netherlands is not big on fantasy, Brazil loves chicklit, and most of Eastern Europe loves science fiction. The US market is notorious for buying almost no translation rights at all. I wonder what the Australian YA market is known for buying?

I hope that helps you understand a bit more what I’m talking about when I jump up and down because Turkey just bought my book. Did I mention that I just sold in Turkey?

  1. Well, minus the taxman’s cut. []
  2. I’m still working on my USian []


  1. Reverie Books Reviews on #

    Oh CONGRATS!!! and that is fascinating to read about. I always wonder how it works and how it happens. Thanks!


  2. Cristina on #

    that’s fantastic! CONGRATULATIONS!
    *jumps up and down too* ^.^

  3. Alberto Lung on #

    Hi there! Really Happy to hear you sold your book to Brazil! (i am from Brazil, hehe).

    Editora Record is a great publisher, specially because they are publishing books that, normally, would not go to print here. Like the books from David Levithan (GLBT). And Also because i might have a book deal with them! haha.

    Good Work, keep on writing, loads.

  4. Justine on #

    Thanks so much for the congrats. I really do get ridiculously over excited about foreign language sales.

    Alberto: Editora Record have been lovely to me. Good luck with your book deal!

  5. E. Kristin Anderson on #

    That’s awesome! V. impressive indeed. I’m enjoying Liar right now, so I can’t say I’m surprised it’s already doing so well 🙂

    Tell me more about the UK – are they trying to get laydown dates in the rest of Europe to match with theirs or what?

  6. Justine on #

    UK publishers seem to want to buy English language rights for the entire world minus North America. They’re especially agressive about trying to buy Australian & New Zealand rights even though they do a terrible job publishing in those countries compared to the local publishers in those countries.

  7. E. Kristin Anderson on #

    Well that’s just ridiculous, especially considering the differences between Aussie English and British English.

  8. jonathan munn on #

    Just some notes about the French edition of Magic or Madness….

    The book got picked up by a French publisher name of Panama [incidentally, this is probably a reference to an old slang term for the city of Paris rather than the canal-ensconced country a bit south of the USians]. This was how I discovered your writing, in fact. My eldest daughter got the book for her youngest sister as a present. I — of course — picked it up and loved it. I have since re-read it three or four times. Curiously enough, my youngest daughter didn’t like it, but that’s life.

    Anyway, back to the subject…

    On the good side you got a lovely translation, courtesy Anne-Judith Descombey. You should be happy with that, I have read some abominal translations over the years…

    On the down side, the cover, while technically proficient was more than curious: a sort of Arthur Ransomesque illustration of a lady in a flowing robe in front of a overlarge toad, with a rather optimistic cat looking up from the foreground. All this against a delicious mud-coloured background and a small twisted tree. The rest of the book is a rather old red-brown colour, the sort that you might see as an accompanying colour on 1930s prints for the Royal Mail. It is not the sort of thing that
    a) gives an accurate picture of what the book contains
    b) makes a potential buyer want to grab the book off the shelf and run to the checkout shouting, “I don’t know what is in this book, but I just have to buy it.” [Does happen, I assure you. Just not with _this_ cover…].

    Also, there was also practically no promotion around the book. I really got the impression that the publisher just sort of pushed it out, and decided to see if it could survive in the wide world all by itself. Additional proof of this is that while the book is labelled ‘Volume 1″ [of what, we are not told], Volume 2 is still MIA, and has been for even longer than the publisher’s web site has not been updated.

    BTW, how can I affirm that there was no promotion about the book? Well it just so happens that we are big YA fiction fans, and regularly ransack our local bookstores and book fairs and lending libraries looking for new books and new authors. This was how we found the Tally Youngblood books for example [it took me some time to realise that I had already read — the not-so-YA novel — ‘Evolution’s Darling’ by the same author, and it took me even longer to realise why he was getting thanks in your books… oops!], so if a book is out and about and stocked and promoted, we get to find it.

    In French, Magic or Madness is called ‘Au-delà de la porte’ ( ‘Beyond the door’ for the non-francophones), and while reflecting an important idea of the book, doesn’t really give the idea of how they planned on getting the series effect that you have in English with the series’ titles. But there again, Magic or Madness translated into French would not have the same alliterative quality. Oh, and you also got a subtitle, ‘Dans les griffes de la sorcière’ (In the witch’s claws)… I suppose that this might be the origin of the cover illustration, but even so, what gave Magic or Madness a particular special flavour was the everyday setting for the magic and the events. The ‘witch’ was not huddling round cauldrons with toads and cats, but reading the N.Y.Times, and wearing designer clothes [well, not rags at any rate]. So altogether a curious affair…

    So, yay for foreign rights, but here’s a question: when you sell these overseas rights, how much say [or consultation] do you have in things like promotion and book covers?

  9. Rachel on #

    Thanks for the info, and congratulations!

    Also Esmeralda clearly wears designer clothes, because in my opinion Tom counts. 🙂

  10. Justine on #

    Jonathan Munn: There is zero consulation on covers and promotion for my overseas books. The rights are sold and then some time later they send me the finished book. I thought the French cover of Magic or Madness was completely wrong for all the reasons you give. However, I don’t know anything about the French market so I have to trust that they know what they’re doing. Besides, like I said, I don’t see the covers until it’s too late to change them.

    Since Magic Lesson has already been translated by the same translator but the rights have reverted to me I’m hoping another French publisher will give the trilogy a go with a more contemporary cover.

    Rachel: Esmeralda most definitely wears designer clothes. She likes the finer things.

  11. Pixelfish on #

    I like buying books I’ve read in German, so I can practise my languages.

    But it makes me sad when I realise there’s this whole wealth of fantasy and SF I’m probably missing out on because the US markets are so translation aversive.

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